28 May 1999

German niche warning

NEXT century, EU farmers must intensify production, specialise in supplying niche markets or go bust, warns president of the German agricultural society DLG, Philip von dem Bussche.

"There is no middle path. Producers must opt either for high output and low costs or specialise in niche production for regional markets," he told visitors to a preview of this autumns Agritechnica farm show. "If farmers stick to the old ways, they will certainly fail."

Speaking in Osnabruck, Lower Saxony, Mr Bussche predicted that lower commodity prices would force farmers to cut fixed costs even further by spreading them over a greater area of farmland. That would be achieved either by acquiring more land, making greater use of contractors to trim machinery costs, or co-operating with neighbours to benefit from economies of scale.

"Finding niche markets for specialist products will become important for smaller-scale producers; particularly organic growers and livestock farmers," explained Mr Bussche. Special emphasis would have to be placed on developing skills to target precise market. &#42